The Shepherd's Hut

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

The Shepherd's Hut is deceptively simple, but it describes the characters' confrontation with their exile in an uninhabited part of Western Australia and their reflections on who they are, what contributions they have made and can make in the future, on their sense of place in the physical and spiritual world. One of the characters is in self-imposed exile because he is afraid to be accused of killing the stepfather who mistreated him his whole life while his death was wholly accidental. The other one claims to have been exiled from the priesthood through some never-revealed fault. These two imperfect yet resilient beings strike a bargain to help each other survive. While they both feel that are very far away from any civilized establishments, they are in fact not, and their blindness to the proximity of others and potential evil eventually disturbs the order they have so precariously achieved.
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As Jaxie Clacton drives away from the tragic scene that has forever changed him and towards what he hopes will be a new life with his beloved Lee, he tells us in straightforward fashion how he came to spend months in this sparsely inhabited part of Australia, how he met an aging priest leading an ascetic life in a shepherd's hut, and how the precarious stability they had managed to build despite their respective secrets was brutally shattered. No stranger to hardship thanks to his family history, he has now discovered where, who and what he is. Now he only seeks peace.

This wonderfully evocative novel can be summed up in one word: intense. The emotions are raw and genuine, the setting deeply rooted in Australia, its rich topography, flora and fauna. The writing is a sensory feast teeming with sounds and scents, the tactile sensations of heat, sweat, grime, the coolness of water on bare skin.

I didn't think I could ever become so engrossed in a book concerned with a young man's coming of age, but Jaxie is a wonderfully compelling anti-hero; brash, hot-headed, earnest, idealistic, resourceful, self-reliant, he stirs the heart in unexpected ways. Especially touching are the passages where he remembers his late mother and dreams of Lee.
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